Master Gardeners: February gardening tips to prepare for Spring planting

Published 12:29 am Saturday, February 5, 2022

By John Green

Certified Texas Master Gardener, OC Master Gardeners

Fellow gardeners, spring is inching closer! It’s about six weeks away, yet there remains a litany of things to do in the garden to get ready for its arrival. Our last frost is quickly approaching (March 10) and while it’s still wintertime, there are many types of plants that can be planted at this time of year. Early to mid-February is vegetable planting time for cool season crops.  Keep in mind early planting assures a good harvest prior to the arrival of summer heat. February is also time to plant many types of shrubs and trees including roses, bare rooted fruit and nut trees, grapes, blueberries, and blackberries. Hardy container-grown trees, shrubs and groundcovers can also be planted this month.

General Maintenance

It’s time to get ready for the hustle and bustle of spring by ensuring gardening equipment and tools are clean, rust-free and in good working order. You’ll also want to check garden hoses for cracks and leaks.

 Prune Deciduous Trees and Shrubs

Herbaceous perennials like American beautyberry and Texas lantana can be cut down to the ground and all the old wood removed, as they completely regrow every year. How you prune depends on the plant.  Spring bloomers should only be pruned once they have bloomed. Some trees and shrubs require almost no pruning whatsoever, or even are averse to it. However, sometimes even the staunchest native may need a bit of a cleanup to remove dead wood, low limbs, or branches impinging on structures.

Vegetables

February is considered the start of spring vegetable gardening in Southeast Texas. Many things can be completed now, (keep tending your indoor hot-weather transplants), but keep in mind that it can still freeze. Be prepared to cover tender plants if necessary. You never know what the weather will do!

Ornamentals

Many potted perennials can be planted now, roses, trees, evergreens.  Summer and fall blooming perennial flowers can be transplanted and divided in anticipation of spring growth.

Crepe myrtles: too many people are still pruning these trees! Do not be an offender, don’t commit crepe murder. Lopping off your tree will not increase the quantity of blooms and the weak 1-year old wood cannot withstand the weight of its own flowers. Leave the tree alone. It only needs diseased or dead wood to be removed as well as suckers from the base. It will naturally grow into a beautiful vase shape on its own. If your tree gets too big for its spot, cut it down and get a more suitable tree.

Ornamental Grass: Prune around this time. If you have a native clumping grass like Lindheimer Muhly, or Mexican Feathergrass hold off on the shears! All a native grass needs is a good fluffing. Do not hack them down like you would Pampas’ grass. Using a good pair of leather gloves, make upward raking motions with open hands to remove dead matter while maintaining the plant itself.

Roses: now is the time to prune roses. The goal for pruning roses is to create an open, vase-like form to improve circulation and prevent disease. Humidity and stagnation are the biggest problems for roses in Southeast Texas, so good air flow is critical. Knockout roses can be cut to 1 to 2 feet due to their remarkable vertical growth. Repeat-blooming antique roses should only be cut back by a 1/3 of their current size. DO NOT prune spring-only bloomers yet, as you will cut all the buds off. Train your climbing roses by tying the canes down to their support.

Trees and Fruit

Look for and remove hanging bags of bark on pecans and other trees, which can be a sign of impending bagworm issues.

Citrus: now is when to start fertilizing citrus trees. Continue fertilizing through October. Nitrogen is normally all they require. For organic fertilizers, use compost or blood meal. Avoid plant-based fertilizers such as cottonseed meal until it warms up more.

Lawn Care

Do not fertilize yet! Wait until April and avoid “weed-and-feed” products. They really do not work. Rather in the meantime, get a soil-test done to determine what needs to be supplemented and measure your lawn area to know quantity. That way you know what needs to be done and how much. Fertilizer runoff and pollution is a serious issue to conserving our rivers and groundwater.

You can apply a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn. Be careful to not get it around the root-zone of trees and do not use on a windy day. Since you measured your lawn, you know exactly how much to apply to prevent runoff pollution. Make sure you use a herbicide suitable for your type of lawn.

Here are a few other gardening tasks for February:

  • Check trees and shrubs for scale insects, and treat with horticultural oil if present
  • Prepare beds and garden area for spring planting. Till in several inches of compost, composted pine bark or similar material
  • Sow seeds in flats or containers to get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives. Petunias, begonias, and impatiens should be sown in February. Warm temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, and periwinkles, should be sown in early February
  • Need to move shrubs or young trees to a new location? Now is the time.
  • Fertilize pansies and other cool season flowers
  • Check compost pile and turn
  • Wait until April to fertilize St. Augustine and Bermuda grass lawns
  • Keep bird feeders stocked for both winter residents and migrating species
  • Get bluebird and other nest boxes ready
  • Check junipers, other narrow-leaf evergreens, and roses for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs over-winter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and discarding of the pouches reduces future damage.

For more information or to have all your gardening questions answered, contact the Orange County Master Gardeners: Website: https://txmg.org/orange Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association Helpline: (409) 882-7010 Email: extension@co.orange.tx.us.